Cross Alps Tour preview: Competitors' Perspective

01 December 2016 06:42
Leman, Holmlund, Zangerl, Thompson
Leman, Holmlund, Zangerl, Thompson -
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The first ever Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup Cross Alps Tour gets underway on December 9 in Val Thorens (FRA), before hitting Arosa (SUI), Montafon (AUT) and finally Innichen/San Candido (ITA) in a rollicking 1000km sprint across the Alps over the course of two weeks in December. With excitement for the season building, we reached out to a few of the top ski cross athletes in the world to get a sense of a skier’s perspective heading into the Tour. 

 

Brady Leman (CAN)

Hometown: Canmore

World Cup seasons: seven

Career highlights: Fourth place Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games; fifth place Kreischberg 2015 Freestyle World Ski Championships; 2016 X Games gold medalist; third overall 2016 Audi Ski Cross World Cup; 15 World Cup podiums

On his Cross Alps Tour expectations:

“It’s gonna be a lot of racing in not too many days, that’s for sure. It’s going to be cool though. I like that there’s some carryover from race to race (with wildcard spots available for top athletes). It makes everything a little more important. You’re going to have to be on it from the very first day of the season. And with Val Thorens and Montafon, two of the biggest courses on tour right at the front of the season, there’s no easing into it.”

On Cross Alps Tour public heat selection:

“It’s a cool position to be in, picking your competitors, and it has the opportunity to create some unique rivalries but also there’s extra pressure, because you’re going to look really stupid if you make a mistake. But if you’re the guy picking opponents it puts a huge target on your back for that first round, because you’re essentially calling out the other dudes. It’s gonna be real interesting.”

On Cross Alps Tour challenges:

“Managing fatigue and energy levels is going to be important. And, emotionally, sometimes when you do good or you do badly, that can be draining and it can take a couple days to get over it. But we don’t really have that luxury in the Cross Alps Tour. You’re going to have to be ready to race the next race as soon as the last race is done.”

 

Anna Holmlund (SWE):

Hometown: Arë

World Cup seasons: seven 

Career highlights: Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games bronze medalist; Deer Valley 2011 Freestyle World Ski Championships bronze medallist; 2011, 2015 and 2016 Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup crystal globe winner; 32 World Cup podiums

On her Cross Alps Tour expectations:

“I think the Cross Alps Tour a really good format and I think it’s a great initiative for us to be more visible as a sport. And just for me, I like to compete; it’s what I want to do, so I’m happy for six competitions in 14 days. I think it’s a really good and I hope this season is the start of a new tradition.”

“The night event in Arosa is a really good thing. We can make more of an celebration out of it. I think the sprint event is really good, and can lead to us maybe bringing ski cross to more people or to the city. It makes us more available for people to watch. And at night we can have a different kind of event, a different kind of atmosphere, which is great for the sport.”

On Cross Alps Tour special aspects:

“It’s the first Cross Alps Tour trophy to win, so of course I want to win that. But for me, I take every competition as an important thing, so I won’t have extra stress thinking that I need to win the Cross Alps specifically.”

On Cross Alps Tour challenges:

“For us as athletes it’s not that different from a normal schedule. The athletes who ski the fastest are going to win. It counts for the overall World Cup as well and you need the points. You can’t afford to have a lousy weekend in San Candido just because you’re tired or something.”

“As a team and with my physio we’ve thought more about how to work on the recovery part of things, so we can recover faster. In the Cross Alps Tour you don’t have a week, you just have a few days to get fit for the fight again. I think if you look at the amount of runs you would take if you go to the final of every race, then you might start getting too many runs. But otherwise it’s not that heavy compared to even a training week. It’s the mental part, I think, that will be more tiring.” 

 

Thomas Zangerl (AUT)

Hometown: Walchsee

World Cup seasons: 12

Career highlights: Inawashiro 2009 Freestyle World Ski Championships silver; six World Cup podiums, 3x Austrian national champion

On his Cross Alps Tour expectations:

“Montafon will be the highlight for sure. A lot of people are coming, a lot of friends, family. My daughter will be there, like last year. It’s a little bit of pressure, but for me the pressure is good. I like it. The more people who come, the more fun.”

On Cross Alps Tour special aspects:

“I’ve read about the wildcards (the guaranteed finals spots for the top eight ranked skiers overall) and that’s good. And the public heat selection, that will be very interesting. It will make you pay more attention to the other guys, to watch them in training. It will be a little bit of work. You won’t be able to watch only your training videos, you’ll be watching other guys, too. And if you choose the not-so-strong guys in the heat selection, then you have to go out there and prove you’re better than them.”

On Cross Alps Tour challenges:

“Everybody has been training the whole summer, so everybody should be ready to do these six races in this short period of time. I don’t think it will be extra hard for the athletes. But I think it will be challenging for the coaches and for the service techs, to do a lot of work in less time. Once the race is finished our team, for instance, has 20 pairs of skis that need to be ready for travelling.”

“With this schedule, you have less time to change something in your set-up. If you have a bad race in Val Thorens and you start thinking about that and maybe you want to change something on your boot or your start technique or something else, that could be the worst thing that could happen to you.”

 

Marielle Thompson (CAN):

Hometown: Whistler

World Cup seasons: six

Career highlights: Sochi 2014 Olympic Games champion; Voss 2013 Freestyle World Ski Championships silver medalist; 2012 and 2014 Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup crystal globe winner; 2016 X Games silver medalist; 23 World Cup podiums

On Cross Alps Tour expectations:

“I feel like it’s not actually that different from a typical World Cup, but it’s just going to be a lot busier, some more travel, and everything is going to happen a lot quicker. I think it’ll be good to get everything going hard in December and have a little more relaxed schedule after that. But I’m not approaching the Cross Alps Tour any differently. When it comes down to it we’re going back to World Cup racing. It’s just going to be a little busy.”

On the Cross Alps Tour venues:

“I always love going to Val Thorens. I’ve had a lot of success there and the course really suits my skiing. I really enjoyed Montafon last year as well. The course is really good there. Coming back from injury last year that was my first race, and I won it. So obviously that’s got some importance to me.” 

“Arosa will be different. We haven’t had a night race in five or six years, but it was fun when we got to race there in 2012 in St. Johann (SUI) in the night format. You get a lot more spectators, so hopefully a lot of people in Arosa will come out. It should make for good viewing. And then Innichen/San Candido is always lots of fun. Last year I crashed there though, so I’m hoping to do better this year. But I’ve done well at all these places in the past and I hope to continue that this season.”

On Cross Alps Tour challenges:

“People are going to have to manage their fatigue, and to keep the bodies running the best they can. I think that’s going to be the difference maker. It’ll be survival of the fittest out there.”

 

Full 2016 Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup Cross Alps Tour preview

2016 Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup Cross Alps Tour brochure

2016/17 Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup Schedule